Muslim convert jailed for suicide vest bomb plot

Cahal Milmo
Friday 17 July 2009 17:20 BST

A former public schoolboy who plotted to blow himself up using his own suicide vest and home-made explosives was today sentenced to detained in prison indefinitely.

Isa Ibrahim, 20, was in the "advanced" stages of planning an attack on a shopping centre before a tip off from the Muslim community prompted police to swoop.

When armed police stormed his Bristol flat they found he had made high explosive HMTD – the same substance used in the July 7 attacks – and had started work on a suicide vest. The night before his arrest in April last year he had even gone to his father's house to get ball bearings to use as shrapnel.

Winchester Crown court heard Hospital consultant’s son wanted to blow up the Broadmead Shopping Centre in Bristol – potentially inflicting massive casualties – and CCTV footage showed him making a reconnaissance to find the best area to set the bomb off.

But after boasting to friends at the Al-Baseera mosque in Bristol that he had injured himself during a test of the explosive and also making radical remarks about the 9/11 attacks being justified, someone in the Muslim community called police.

The jury convicted the heroin addict, who had been expelled from several schools, by a majority of making an explosive with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in the UK in April 2008. He was also found guilty of a charge of preparing terrorist acts by purchasing material to make an explosive, making that explosive, buying material to detonate the explosive, carrying out "reconnaissance" before the act and "making an improvised suicide vest in which to then detonate an explosive substance".

Ibrahim was given an indeterminate sentence and told by the judge, Mr Justice Butterfield, he should serve a minimum of 10 years. His mother fled the court in tears as the sentence was passed.

"You were, in my judgment, a lonely and angry young person, with a craving for attention," said Mr Justice Butterfield.

"You are a dangerous young man, well capable of acting on the views you held," he added.

The jury heard that Ibrahim became increasingly radicalised after converting to Islam and consequently changing his name from Andrew Philip Michael Ibrahim. He spent several months researching Islamic fundamentalism on the internet, including the motivation behind suicide attacks.

He also used the internet to find instructions on how to make explosives from household products.

The jury was told that he had described the UK as a "dirty toilet" and he believed the 9/11 attacks were a justifiable response to US and UK aggression towards Muslims. But Ibrahim told the jury he just wanted to set the vest off and film it for the website You Tube and that he thought suicide bombing was wrong both morally and according to Islam.

He got involved in making explosives to be controversial and to fill a void in his life because he was lonely and the lost sheep of his family, he claimed.

His defence counsel David Spens QC said Ibrahim’s unhealthy interest in explosives started at an early age but he had no intention of blowing either himself or anyone else up.

Mr Justice Butterfield told Ibrahim that, even though he had not made a detonation device or completed the suicide vest, "your preparation to inflict an atrocity on the innocent civilians of Bristol were advanced".

He added that he considered Ibrahim to be a "continuing danger" to the public but gave a substantial discount on the minimum term imposed due to the fact that he had acted alone and because of his age.

Flanked by four prison officers, Ibrahim showed no emotion as the jury delivered its majority verdict.

The jurors found him guilty of making an explosive substance with intent by a majority of 11 to 1 and the preparation of terrorist acts by a majority of 10 to 2 after six days of deliberation.

Ibrahim’s father, Nassif, mother, Victoria, and brother, Peter, attended the court every day .

The policeman in charge of the investigation, Detective Superintendent Nigel Rock, thanked Bristol’s Muslim community for tipping them off about Ibrahim’s behaviour.

"This was a landmark case due to the very fact that the initial information came direct from the Muslim community to the police.

"The fact that the Muslim community had that trust and confidence in the police to feel able to make that call is hugely significant.

"We will never know what the consequences would have been had the community not had the courage to contact the police but what we do know is that Ibrahim had all the components for a credible explosive device, he had increased the destructive power of that device the night before his arrest by obtaining shrapnel to add to it.

"He had made a suicide vest and built the means of detonation. Finally he had identified a busy shopping centre in Bristol as his target.

"The jury found he meant to detonate that bomb, intending to cause serious harm. There is no doubt people would have been killed.

"The police and public of Bristol owe a huge thank you to our Muslim community.

Moira Macmillan, of the Crown Prosecution counter terrorism division, said: "As part of this investigation, the police spent thousands of hours painstakingly reconstructing Isa Ibrahim’s computer activity in the months leading up to his arrest.

"The role that his repeated viewing of extremist media played in his radicalisation was central to the prosecution case.

"The court was told that he spent many hours watching, and re-watching, material on the internet that included videos of suicide bombers and instructions on how to make explosives.

"The device that Ibrahim was making was viable. Had he carried out the attack he was preparing, serious civilian casualties would have been inevitable."

The Council of Bristol Mosques said in a statement: "We condemn, in the strongest terms, any act of terrorism and extremism. Islam has no remote connection whatsoever with such criminal actions or indeed intentions."

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